“I was prepared for everything:” Highlights from Creative Careers Week in Arts & Humanities

Jill foley headshot
Jill Foley with two students, all holding hands in a triangle shape

Jill Foley with Tri Delta sisters.

April 18, 2024

How does a Film degree prepare you to launch a company that became a household name? 

As part of Creative Careers week in the Division of Arts & Humanities, Jill Foley (Film ‘00) returned to campus on April 3 to speak with Dean Sara Guyer. Foley explained how the skills she learned at Cal have served her every step of the way: from her first post-college job with a North Bay theater company to co-founding and serving as VP of Apparel for Peloton.

Foley’s public speaking skills and ability to think on her feet — honed in small seminar classes and her Dramatic Arts minor at Berkeley — led her first to law school and then to a career as an attorney for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services and Sanctuary for Families. 

But her work in the public sector on behalf of vulnerable children was as heartbreaking as it was fulfilling, and in 2013 she pursued an opportunity to launch an apparel brand for Peloton, then a scrappy startup led by her husband John Foley. At Peloton, she explained, she often found herself as the only woman in a boardroom.

“They're all 60-year-old men who’ve been in business for 40 years. I was an actress, and then a lawyer, and now here I am building an apparel brand from scratch. I'm trying to show them how I'm going to take this business to a 300 million top line by 2025, and they're peppering me with questions. But in my time at Cal I learned to get prepared, so I was prepared for everything.”

Foley also felt that having a different background helped her bring a different perspective into the boardroom. She credited her Film major with giving her an understanding of human nature that has served her well throughout her career. 

If she hadn't majored in the humanities, Foley added, “I don't know that I would have been so good at public speaking, been so good at research, been so good at writing.”

Foley also took questions from students during the event. She spoke candidly about the learning curve of launching Peloton Apparel, described what she looks for in job candidates, and reassured students that the problem-solving skills, tenacity, and comfort with ambiguity that they develop in Arts & Humanities classes will serve them well in their careers. “Anyone graduating from Cal should be confident when you’re going out there,” Foley affirmed. 

Said Dean Guyer, “Today's conversation reflects the spirit of innovation and resilience that defines both the division of Arts and Humanities and the extraordinary career journey of Jill Foley and other alumni. Jill Foley really exemplifies the range of possibilities that a major in the arts and humanities makes possible.”

Creative Careers week is just one instance of the Division of Arts & Humanities’ focus on student access and inclusive excellence. As Dean Guyer explained in a Campus Conversation last year, “My goal is to ensure that every student who wants to major in the arts and humanities… has access to the support they need, the courses that they want to study, and feels proud and entitled to that destiny.” 

In addition to a networking workshop, students had another opportunity to learn more about career paths and connect with alums at the Creative Careers mixer, which brought together nearly 100 undergraduates and creative professionals. 

a crowd of students and alums at the Creative Careers mixer
A student shows an alum their laptop screen at an outdoor reception